The first time I heard David Bowie was when I was nine years old. I had been hearing him all my life—my father was and is an adamant fan, and so Bowie’s music was always around—but it was at the age of nine when I actually heard him. Before that moment, I had been going through musical “phases”—first it was Michael Jackson, then Queen, then Prince (I always have loved the glam ones). At first Bowie’s music left a figurative bad taste in my mouth. It was scary, nonlinear, unforgiving.
Other than “Space Oddity” and the occasional “Life on Mars” or “Modern Love,” Bowie’s music was mostly absent from radio set lists. Then I discovered my dad’s records. I started with his 1977 release of Heroes and later progressed to Hunky Dory and Aladdin Sane. More recently, I’ve been listening to the back tracks of Low, Lodger, and The Man Who Sold the World.
The thing that has resonated with me in his music is not the startling harmonies, outbreaks of brassy saxophone, or twanging guitar leads. It’s not in the in-your-face, often sexual songwriting, or in the promiscuous and gender-ambiguous manner in which he used to dress. The thing that I love about this man is his ability to change personas, to change himself, at the drop of a metaphorical hat—without ever looking back. This is the type of person that I aspire to be.
David Bowie released his last album on his birthday, three days before his death. His album, Blackstar, was in a way a parting gift to his fans. It is moving to think that he considered the lives of people he has inspired rather than his own.
I was angry when I heard of David Bowie’s death. I was frustrated, and I was in denial. I though that, if anyone should have immortality, it should be a man who changed millions of lives! He had made me realize that I could be as brave as him, as forthcoming. He made it okay to be a “freak.” He was a hero to me for years and years (pardon the expression, Bowie fans). The thing I wish for myself, as both a writer, and a musician, and human being, is to be somebody’s hero like he was for me.
Stella Pfahler, class of 2019